Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thursday, July 20, 2011

Sand tobogganing rocks! Paul, our driver to the desert, was a typical Ozzie with a nonstop sense of humor and the inborn ability to laugh at himself. He goes to the United States every 2 years, buys a truck, drives coast to coast for a few weeks and then returns home to Australia. He then brings the truck home, changes the steering wheel to the other side of the car and off he goes for another 2 years! He seems to have a particular fondness for Texas, as well! Now, none of this may be true...we really don't know for sure! But he was entertaining as he drove us to the sand dunes in the desert to try our hand at sand tobogganing.

After entering the desert area, we reach a place called Lightning Ridge. It is really just a mound of sand that is filled with what looks like thousands of tiny rocks. In reality, they each represent a lightning strike! As the lightning hits the sand, it melts the silica in the sand to create these little lightning rocks. Amazing how much lightning hits in this area! You are not allowed to take any of these rocks, but Paul got out and picked one up to show us. He promised us he would put it back in the exact spot from which he took it...again, who knows!?

Back to sand tobogganing: For some, it goes like this: you hike up a pretty serious hill of sand...all sand...after all, it is a sand dune...have your picture taken by a young, smiling photographer (who is going to New York in a couple of weeks) has hiked up the hill and is not out of breath. She tells you that you are doing fine, just like she is paid to do! When finally at the top, it is a glorious view of the desert from where you've just come and to where you are now going, much more quickly and with very little effort! As instructed, you lie down on a piece of board, rough on one side to prevent you from sliding off and waxed on the other so you can reach speeds of up to 35 mph as you torpedo headlong down the gritty incline toward an uncertain landing. Hurtling oneself willy-nilly down a sand hill with no visible means of stopping that does not involve tumbling head over heels in fine grain sand that will end up EVERYWHERE must be on everyone's bucket list! The alternate scenario goes something like this: "Cool!", you say to yourself, "Let's go!", not noticing the angle and height of the sand as you race up the hill to the top with nary a bead of sweat and plenty of oxygen to spare. You passed the little photographer girl because you were going too fast to notice her or she says something like, "How many times is this for ya, hey?" You lie down on the board, race down the hill at breakneck speed and rush to repeat it all over again! The point isjust doing it! Such wild abandon and fleeting freedom! Beware: you MUST keep the front of the board up lest you find yourself with a mouthful of grit, which many of us did! So much fun! Some of us did it once, some did it 6 times but either way it was awesome! Now for some pictures of us in various stages of victory and defeat!

Anja went on a helicopter ride with a couple of us and it provided us with breathtaking views of the island and the surrounding water! The pilot took us around the island to the east side of the island showing us the desert where we had just been sand tobogganing along with indescribably turquoise and green water along the shore. The depth of the water dictated the colors and there was a rainbowof greens, turquoise, myriad shades of blues, indigo, jade...Mother Nature was working overtime here!

The winds died down today and we could really enjoy the perfect temperatures, sit on the beach, walk without jackets, and be glad we are not in temperatures too extreme in either way! Some went kayaking while others took the opportunity to relax or explore the island.

Later in the afternoon, Bissy came to visit. Bissy is an older dolphin who doesn't go out too far from the island anymore and is quite comfortable around people. She was swimming around in very shallow water giving all who saw her a very close encounter with her. She left all too soon and we spent some time on the beach looking out into the sea in the hopes that Bissy would return. It was not to be. This was one of those special times that will not be forgotten but neither can it be replicated in exactly the same way.

Brendan, however, wandered into the water and was so close to another dolphin that he was able to touch her! Naturally, we all wanted to have the same experience but it was Brendan's alone. Brendan is our group "didgeridude"!

Today as the winds died down the family of kookaburras returned to be fed. They wait patiently for very lean beef as meat with a high fat content is not digestible and may make them sick or result in their death. (Hmmmm....maybe humans should take note here!) Kookaburras are very noisy, round birds with a long sharp beak and their screams and calls could be heard all over the island. They are very family-oriented, mating for life, and warning other kookaburras to stay away if they interfere with an expected food source. Very cute birds full of personality and noise!

Some of us went to Karen and Ken's room before dinner and to see the sunset from their balcony. They have a knack for getting a room with a beautiful view!

We are off to the ferry leaving Tangalooma (so sad, really!) and headed to Brisbane and the koalas!!! then it's off to Sydney...let's hope the rains have stopped!

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